In the main event of UFC 231, Max Holloway silenced any doubters with a dominant fourth-round TKO victory over Brian Ortega to retain his featherweight championship. It's Holloway's 13th straight win, tying him for the second-longest win streak in UFC history. This loss snaps a 15-fight unbeaten streak for Ortega, who entered the fight undefeated in his MMA career.
In his first fight in 371 days, Holloway took a little time to find his groove but once he did, his masterful striking was on full display. Holloway found his range and timing and constantly touched Ortega with jab-cross combinations. Ortega is tough as nails and never went away despite getting hit with a high volume of clean shots. Holloway got loose and taunted Ortega a few times, and he was able to stave off Ortega's grappling attempts. But in the third round, Ortega rocked Holloway and gained some confidence. He continued to press forward and landed more shots, but Holloway stayed composed the entire time.
Before the fourth round Holloway, who entered the fight as the betting underdog, looked over to commentator Joe Rogan and said, "I'm ending it now." He then came out and threw a barrage of punches at Ortega, who just couldn't handle the volume. Holloway switched to southpaw for most of the round and it seemed to confuse Ortega as he just ate five and six punches at a time. Holloway got hit a couple times but he was completely unfazed and he continued to overwhelm Ortega, whose left eye swelled up considerably in the round. Ortega never got knocked down and managed to survive the round, but the doctor declared him unfit to fight the fifth round, giving Holloway his second straight title defense as undisputed champion.
Holloway set a UFC single-fight record with 290 significant strikes landed. With Ortega landing 110 significant strikes, they combined for a single-fight record 400 significant strikes. Holloway also set a single-round record with 134 significant strikes in Round 4. Tonight's effort moves Holloway past Michael Bisping (1,567) and Frankie Edgar (1,463) for the most significant strikes landed in UFC history with 1,627.
Holloway was forced to pull out of fights three times this year for various reasons. An injury kept him out of a fight against Frankie Edgar at UFC 222 in February. He stepped in on short-notice to face Khabib Nurmagomedov for the vacant flyweight championship at UFC 223, but doctors stopped him from cutting weight at the last minute because they deemed the cut too dangerous. Finally, at UFC 226 in July he exhibited concussion-like symptoms and had to pull out during fight week. After all of that, Holloway didn't skip a beat and put on probably the best performance of his career. In his post-fight interview Holloway said he is open to remaining at featherweight, but he is also open to moving up to lightweight because he wants to be the number one pound-for-pound fighter. UFC president Dana White has said he thinks Holloway should move up after this fight.
There is no shortage of intriguing fights for Holloway at 155 pounds. He lost his first-ever UFC fight to Dustin Poirier when he was 20 years old. He already has a history with the current lightweight champion Nurmagomedov. A fight against Tony Ferguson would be a guaranteed war. But probably the most interesting matchup would be a rematch against Conor McGregor, the last fighter to defeat Holloway five years ago. Whatever the case, at 27 years old, it's clear that this is just the beginning for Holloway, and the best is yet to come.
In the co-main event, Valentina Shevchenko finally won the title she has sought after for years with a unanimous decision victory over Joanna Jedrzejczyk to win the vacant UFC women's flyweight championship. Jedrzejczyk, the former strawweight champion, moved up from 115 pounds and has a storied history against Shevchenko, having lost to her three times in Muay Thai fights. Shevchenko looked stronger and more powerful than Jedrzejczyk for the entire fight. She landed takedowns early on, and she controlled the striking with crisp counters and hard kicks. Jedrzejczyk had some success in the later rounds as Shevchenko slowed down, but the result was never in doubt. With Shevchenko as champion, the women's flyweight division is going to be more intriguing than ever.
Full results from the event can be found below:
- Max Holloway def. Brian Ortega via TKO (doctor's stoppage) at 5:00 of Round 4 to retain UFC featherweight championship
- Valentina Shevchenko def. Joanna Jedrzejczyk via unanimous decision (49-46 x3) to win UFC women's flyweight championship
- Gunnar Nelson def. Alex Oliveira via submission (RNC) at 4:17 of Round 2
- Hakeem Dawodu def. Kyle Bochniak via split decision (28-29, 30-27 x2)
- Thiago Santos def. Jimi Manuwa via KO at 0:41 of Round 2
- Nina Ansaroff def. Claudia Gadelha via unanimous decision (29-28 x3)
- Gilbert Burns def. Olivier Aubin-Mercier via unanimous decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
- Jessica Eye def. Katlyn Chookagian via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Elias Theodorou def. Eryk Anders via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Brad Katona def. Matthew Lopez via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
- Dhiego Lima def. Chad Laprise via KO at 1:37 of Round 1
- Diego Ferreira def. Kyle Nelson via TKO at 1:23 of Round 2
- Aleksandar Rakic def. Devin Clark via TKO at 4:05 of Round 1